Mr. Johnson and the thesaurus

This job has numerous ingredients to it, one of which is that I am supposed to be a skilled wordsmith. There is debate as to whether I have actually achieved the “skilled” part — and personally, I know for a fact that I am nowhere near the level of many peers.

Which brings me to one of Elizabethtown’s preeminent attorneys, W. Leslie Johnson Jr., who is also a wordsmith of sorts — but at a very different level.

For instance, Johnson is the only person I know who can pronounce the word thesaurus in five different ways. It’s true … just ask him. It’s like us regular folk trying to say aluminum or otorhinolaryngologist.

But there is a specific reason why Johnson has been forced to use the word thesaurus recently — and it’s kind of my fault.

Back when Johnson had his heart operation and was beginning his recuperation time, I figured he could use something to pass the time other than becoming obsessed with soap operas. So, in order to steer him away from “The Young & Restless” and Ellen DeGeneres, I sent him a book of crossword puzzles and, to assist him, a thesaurus.

A little back story: Back when I was just starting my newspaper career in the early 1980s, my grandfather gave me his weathered and heavily used Roget’s International Thesaurus. It’s been like a journalistic bible to me ever since and remains on my desk to this day.

So since I know Johnson is now the proud owner of his very own thesaurus, I have enjoyed tossing special words his way within editorials and columns — and my cymotrichous friend has been quite affable about it. In fact, it has led to several interesting Monday morning conversations or voice mail messages, none of which have been anything close to logorrhea or felt like a odontalgia.

Though I have never witnessed Johnson in court in his salad days or since, I feel sure that his questioning style with a defendant could have been described similar to a stichomythia. And now in his insouciant 70s, Johnson is always a pleasure to chat with, since he is regularly eudaemonic.

As most know, Johnson is an autochthonous individual to Bladen County. He has a long history here both personally and professionally. And he has a deep-rooted family tree with branches reaching far and wide. He has built a legacy that will have a profound affect on the county’s law enforcement and legal system for many years to come.

During Johnson’s arduous recovery, I imagined that he was hard at work with the crossword book — almost elucubrate — with his trusty thesaurus silently by his side and at the ready. I have a feeling the same can be said now as he peruses my editorials and columns — and when he comes across a word that tests his knowledge, I can envision him considering a vivisepulture of yours truly.

Good-naturedly, of course.

While Johnson is often a laodician and is wise in his prospicience, there is rarely any languor. Instead, there is always at least a morsel of jocularity on the tip of his tongue, ready to tumble out in the blink of an eye.

I am proud to attach the euonym of “friend” to the relationship I have with the eldest Johnson — though this may have over-taxed that friendship, in which case Monday morning’s telephone call could be the best one yet.

Bring it on, my thesauri compadre.

W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.
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